Ryan Hunter-Reay delivers stirring message to students at Honda STEAM Connections Tour

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (April 20, 2017) – Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay is always looking ahead – to the next competition, the next challenge, and his next victory in the No. 28 DHL Honda.

The 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion shared his motorsports background, passion, and aspirations with more than 350 middle school and high school students during the Honda STEAM Connections Tour on the campus of the University of Alabama.

“Motorsports is an everyday challenge, and you have to be progressive, you have to keep moving forward, and always pushing the envelope,” Hunter-Reay told students during a Q&A session. “The decisions and the paths you take now are going to play an important role in your future. And the real drive behind all that is to find something you’re passionate about.

“I just loved tinkering with cars, whether it was RC cars or go-karts, and that’s how the passion for racing just grew. I love the challenge, I love the competition. That’s want grabbed me and continues to inspire me.”

Held in conjunction with the University of Alabama College of Engineering Formula SAE program, the Honda STEAM Connections Tour showcases the science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math (STEAM) that are the underpinnings of motorsports and the automotive industry.

Students from across Central Alabama toured the College of Engineering’s electro-mechanical, astrorobotics, and engine labs, in addition to interactive outdoor displays featuring the university’s Formula SAE race car, a Honda Performance Development mobile engineering unit, and GreenpowerUSA.

“I thought the whole day was cool and I got to see behind the scenes what current engineering students are working on,” said Seth Granby, an eighth grader from Tuscaloosa. “I’m part of our school’s robotics team and am looking at mechanical engineering, so to tour the labs and hear how the race car driver and his engineer work together was interesting.”

Honda Performance Development trackside engineer Nick Durant unfolded for students how the Honda direct fuel-injected, twin-turbocharged V6 engine in Hunter-Reay’s race car is continually on the edge under high-speed demands. It’s the responsibility of HPD engineers to mitigate failure over the course of the engine’s 2,500-mile lifespan and give their drivers peak performance levels.

“We have more than 100 sensors on the car to tell us what is going on, but the best sensor I have is Ryan,” Durant said. “His feedback is fundamental to us making the engine work for Ryan. I use STEM every day in my career. Engineering is finding practical solutions to everyday problems, and that’s why it is crucial to continue the flow of students in the STEM fields.”

Huntsville, Alabama-based GreenpowerUSA is accomplishing that objective through its program and curriculum in which middle school and high school students design and race electric cars. Currently, it incorporates 150 schools in 16 states.

“Our goal is to take the STEM concepts you’re learning in the classroom today and have you apply them in a tangible way during the school day or after school through this program,” said GreenpowerUSA president Jacob Boyett. “We conduct these races anywhere from your school parking lot to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Barber Motorsports Park.”

Hunter-Reay, a two-time winner of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, was behind the wheel of a different type of race car during the program as he took special guest Davlin Tomlinson on a brief tour of campus in a two-seat, street-legal Indy car. Tomlinson, a star defensive lineman for the Crimson Tide who is projected as an early-round NFL Draft selection, also has an affinity for automobiles and motorsports.

“When I was in high school I was thinking about mechanical engineering but went with finance instead. But in the future, I’d like to return to school to get my engineering degree so I can work on cars and things of that nature,” Tomlinson said. “It’s great to see all these young people here to hopefully open their minds to the sciences. The students here are the future and it’s important to inspire the future engineers, mathematicians, and artists.”

The next Honda STEAM Connections Tour, organized and managed by STEAM Sports Group, is scheduled for May 15-16 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in association with Purdue University.

Honda Performance Development
HPD was founded in 1993 to spearhead Honda’s entry into Indy car racing.  No other manufacturer has matched Honda’s success in Indy cars, which includes 220 race victories, 15 drivers’ championships, six competitive manufacturers’ championships and 10 Indianapolis 500 victories since 2004. 

In addition to Indy car competition, HPD and Honda have a history of success in the classic endurance sports car races, including a pair of LMP2 wins and a privateer LMP1 victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2010; as well as multiple American Le Mans Series championships and five LMP2 class victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring since 2007.  HPD’s Honda engines have recorded 75 race wins at endurance sports car races around the world, with 70 of those victories coming in the HPD-developed line of sports prototype cars.

HPD offers a complete line of race engines for cars from grass roots to pinnacle; for professional, amateur and entry-level racers. For more information about HPD and the company’s racing product lines, please visit http://hpd.honda.com.

STEAM Sports Group is a marketing and special events firm that focuses on how to integrate corporate STEM and STEAM initiatives (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) with sporting events, leagues, conferences, governing associations and athletes.  STEAM Sports Foundation is SSG’s ancillary 501c3 that seeks funding primarily for educational programs, curriculums and scholarships in an effort to unite business, education and sports.

Recognizing workforce and economic development as an integral part of corporate growth, SSG and SSF work with companies, educators and sports groups to develop initiatives around science, technology, engineering, arts and math that prepare and excite America’s youth in an effort to create tomorrow’s vibrant workforce.